Want to improve your happiness? Learn to say no when a coworker asks for help!

Happiness at work depends on a lot of little things. It can be greatly influenced by your role, your salary, and your work environment. But something that often gets overlooked in measurements of workplace happiness is your interactions with coworkers. Whether you operate within healthy intrapersonal dynamics with your colleagues can have a direct impact on how happy you are. And a huge part of that formula is having strong boundaries with those coworkers. That means when someone comes to you asking for help, you’re not always saying yes out of habit. Here are 3 great tips to help you learn to say no when a coworker asks you to lend them a hand.

Manage Your Calendar Proactively

Sometimes, you should just let your calendar do the work for you. Add blocks to your calendar during a busy work week. When your schedule seems to overrun with meetings, there’s something you can do to scale back. Make sure you are scheduling time for the productive work that you need to stay on top of your to-do list. Be realistic and schedule that time for when it makes sense to you. Either set aside an hour block each afternoon or even consider making one day a week “Admin day” so you can focus on getting things done that tend to add up otherwise.

Be Prepared to Say No

Saying no is much harder when we’re caught by a surprise request. Prioritizing is a critical part of knowing what you should say no to. Planning your work around that prioritization plan will help provide the framework for these often uncomfortable conversations. When we make a specific plan before we are confronted with a request, we are far more likely later to act in a way that’s consistent with our original intentions. So, rehearsing how and why you’ll say no to your teammate in advance will make you more likely to follow through when the time comes.

Align Expectations

If people are coming to you with requests that you don’t think you should be contributing to, then there’s clearly a misalignment of expectations between you and that other person. Sometimes it’s an issue of clarifying roles and responsibilities (between you and your coworker or even between you and your manager). The fact is that when you say yes to the little things, you will inevitably be saying no to the big things that actually deserve your attention. So be strict with yourself and your colleagues to be kinder to the work (and yourself) in the long term.

Say No, Do No

A critical part of saying no is the follow-through. If you find yourself inevitably looped into a project where you initially said no you couldn’t help, that’s an error on your part. You have to be just as true to your word on this matter as anything else. Once you say you are unavailable to help, that’s when you really need to take a step back and not get involved. Sometimes this means watching while others do things a different way than you would. Sometimes the hardest part of saying no is learning when to stay in your lane. But it is well worth it in the long run.

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